The Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles made the second blockbuster trade of the draft, as the Eagles traded up to the number two overall pick, and in exchange gave the Browns their first round picks this year and next year, a second round pick in 2018, and two other 2016 selections. At a glance, the Browns 100% won this trade, as they got a big haul from the Eagles and only move down six spots to pick number eight. With two first round picks next year, the Browns find themselves in a great situation to rebuild their team. However, it is not a situation that has been uncommon to them. The Browns have had multiple first round picks in three of the last four NFL drafts, and as we all know, it hasn’t turned out so well for the Browns.
After trading the selection Julio Jones was later taken with to the Atlanta Falcons in 2011, the Browns were set to speed up their rebuilding process in 2012 with their two first round selections. However, that didn’t work out so well. The first of these two picks was Alabama running back Trent Richardson, whom the Browns drafted 3rd overall, and even traded up one selection with the Minnesota Vikings to secure the rights to draft him. At the time, Trent Richardson was thought of as the best running back to come out of the draft since Adrian Peterson, so it is no surprise the Browns coveted the tailback. In his rookie season Richardson showed great promise, running for 950 yards while scoring 11 touchdowns. However, he had a very alarming yards per carry, only averaging 3.6 yards on each handoff he took. In 2013 things took a turn for the worse with Richardson as after two games in Cleveland, he was traded to Indianapolis for a first round pick. Richardson had two poor seasons in 2013 and 2014 for the Colts, and hasn’t touched the ball on a regular season snap ever since. While the Browns got back some value on this poor pick, they still ultimately traded the player they gave up their 2012 4th overall pick (and 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks) to the Colts for a 2014 26th overall pick (later traded up to pick 22). As for what they could have done had they not taken Richardson? They could have taken Ryan Tannehill at the 4th selection and gotten a solid NFL quarterback, or traded back and selected Luke Kuechly, who has developed into the best middle linebacker in the NFL. The next pick in the 2012 draft for the Browns was the 28-year-old QB out of Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden. Weeden was a disaster from the start for Cleveland, going 5-15 as the starter, with only 5,116 yards, a sub par 23-26 TD to interception ratio, and an awful completion percentage of 55.9% in his 23 games as a Brown. His rookie season was his lone season where he held down the starting job for most of the year, as in 2013 he started only five games and was benched in favor of Jason Campbell. The Browns missed out on some good NFL players when they took Weeden, as HB Doug Martin, LB Dont’a Hightower, and S Harrison Smith were all taken shortly after the Browns selected Weeden.
In 2013 the Browns only had one selection, but it was still a top 10 selection, as they sat at number six overall. At that pick, they decided to select LSU OLB Barkevious Mingo. Mingo had a solid start to his NFL career in his rookie season, putting up five sacks and 29 tackles as a rotational player. After his impressive start, the Browns felt he was ready for a bigger role and gave him 11 starts, but he regressed greatly in 2014, recording only two sacks and 26 tackles. In 2015 the team stripped him of his starting job and gave him a very small role on the team, as he posted zero sacks and just 13 tackles, however he did record his first career interception. Heading into 2016, Mingo is unlikely to return to his spot as a starter, and is even more unlikely to have his 5th year option exercised, leaving his future with the Browns after this season up in the air. Had the Browns decided Mingo wasn’t the player for them, the Browns could have drafted dynamic playmaker Tavon Austin, or defensive linemen Star Lotulelei or Sheldon Richardson in his place, which would have provided them with better production out of their first round selection.
After trading Trent Richardson the Browns were stocked with two first round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. With their first selection, the Browns decided to trade down to number nine overall, letting the Bills move up to select WR Sammy Watkins and picking up their 2015 first round selection. They then decided that they wanted to trade up one selection, and ultimately selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert to start opposite Joe Haden. However, the trend continues as once again, this has not worked out so well. In 2014 he was solid as a rotational player, posting 8 pass deflections and one interception. However, in 2015 he was limited to just nine games and 51 snaps due to injury, putting up zero interceptions and just one pass deflection. He is not a total loss yet, but he really needs to step up in 2016 for the Browns to feel comfortable with their pick. Should he ultimately wind up a bust, Cleveland will be kicking themselves knowing that they passed on great players such as WRs Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham Jr., OLBs Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr, and DT Aaron Donald. With their second pick, the Browns moved up to pick none other than Texas A&M QB Johnny “Football” Manziel. Manziel was a disaster for Cleveland as soon as he stepped onto the field. He started his career on the bench developing under Brian Hoyer, but eventually got two starts in his rookie season which did not go so well, as he went 18-35 with just 175 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions in his two games, losing each. In 2015 he was not as bad on the field, putting up 1,500 yards, a 7-5 TD to
interception ratio, and a 57.8% completion percentage. However, off the field was where Manziel showed his true colors. Often critiqued for being immature, Manziel proved his critics right in 2015 and 2016, as he partied too much and was arrested on multiple occasions, including charges of assault and driving under the influence. Manziel’s off the field issues ran him straight out of Cleveland, as he was released this offseason, and remains unsigned to this day. After everything they had gone through, the Browns probably wish that they had taken QB Teddy Bridgewater instead of Manziel.
Finally, there is the 2015 draft in which Cleveland had two first round picks thanks to their trade with Buffalo in the 2014 NFL draft. With their two picks, the Browns selected Washington DT Danny Shelton, and Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving. It is still too early to judge on whether they either will be good players as they have only played one season, but Shelton was solid on the inside his rookie season posting 37 total tackles and starting 15 of their 16 games. On the other end, Erving only started four games which is too small of a sample size to make a judgement on to this point.
To sum up, the Browns need to end what seems like a long running NFL orientation film in which they show viewers exactly what not to do. It is vital for them to capitalize on their first round picks this year and next, and finally show the league that they might actually know what they are doing. If they use a combination of trading down and taking the best player available, they can maximize the talent they take in as with all the holes on their roster, they can’t draft based off need. They are off to a good start so far this year after trading down, but given their history, thats far from a guarantee that the trade will net them good NFL players.